By: Trent Leith / May 21, 2022
The Vancouver Canucks continue to stare in the face of sweeping changes. Some have come and gone, and others stand directly in the Canucks path through the offseason.
The Canucks are expected to continue to evolve beyond this offseason and into the 2022/23 offseason as Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford continue to dismantle the old regime’s vision and start moulding their own. There are some players on the Canucks that are coming off down years. As well as some who had stretches of play that would be cause for concern if they were trying to show the new brass their worth to the club. These players can’t afford to miss a step to start the next campaign.
It’s no surprise or secret that Nils Höglander had a less than stellar sophomore season. In his first season with the Vancouver Canucks Höglander put up 27 points in 56 games. In his second full season, Höglander only put up 18 points in 60 games played.
In the early days of the Canucks’ 2021/22 season Höglander looked as though he was going to be his old self for a second year, however as time went on and the coaching staff changed Höglander found it harder and harder to be the player he knew he could be. While his hard work and effort were never in question, the scoring touch didn’t seem to follow him this year with only a 7.6 shooting percentage on the season.
Jim Rutherford has never been someone to shy away from making big trades seemingly just for the sake of doing so, and Höglander it’s just the right type of young player that teams around the league would be interested in trying to get out of Vancouver if Vancouver is indeed looking to shake things up.
If Höglander wants to stay a Vancouver Canuck and play alongside his new bestie Elias Pettersson, he really needs to show what he is capable of in the upcoming season and try and get back to being a 30 or 40 point player. Höglander has the skill and talent necessary to be that player especially if he continues to get top-six deployment regularly, and if the Canucks intend on trading JT Miller or Brock Boeser, that will even be more opportunity for him to play in the top six and he cannot squander that opportunity.
I said at the beginning of the season the Dickinson acquisition could be the most important, and best move that the Canucks made in the offseason. And I stand by that. It wound up not being a move for the better, but if the trade worked, the value would have been immense.
Dickinson was brought into the organization to be the third-line shutdown centre, and the importance I placed on that acquisition wasn’t so much what Dickinson would do, rather, it was what it would allow Horvat to do. Getting Horvat away from the matchup role. Unfortunately, Dickinson missed 20 games this season largely due to injury, and when he was in the lineup he wasn’t what he was expected to be, eventually playing bottom-six wing, vs a third-line centre. Dickinson still has two years on his $2.65M deal, so there is time for him to turn it around.
Dickinson is a player the Canucks should look to move on from if they can, but that said, if they can’t find a suitor for him on the trade market, Dickinson still has a spot in the lineup if he can get back to the level of play he was at for the Dallas Stars. One of the biggest things he will have to work on is his abysmal faceoff percentage of only 42.6% which is last on the team for centreman.
Conor Garland has been an interesting player to say the least. Garland joined the team in the summer blockbuster trade that brought him in along with OEL. Garland was an immediate fan favourite with his unique playing style and immense talent for getting under the opposition’s skin. But as the season went on, his production dropped off.
Speculation began that the Bruce Boudreau didn’t like his playstyle, or he wasn’t the right fit, or he was too small for a team with enough undersized players. When that speculation starts to percolate, trade rumours do too. Garland was on Canucks fans’ radar for both good and bad reasons this year.
Despite all his criticisms for having a slow year and his drop-off in points earning in the middle of the season, he had a career-high in points, and all was done with very minimal powerplay time. The vast majority of his points were scored at five-on-five. He was third in five-on-five scoring amongst his team members beaten only by Elias Pettersson and JT Miller.
Garland should stay a Canuck in my opinion, his current contract and age make for a perfect complementary top-six piece. But the current Canucks PHO and GM value size, if Garland doesn’t want to be trade bait he needs to find constancy and make himself unexpendable to the Canucks.
If the Canucks want to take a step forward next season, these three players will need to take another step forward, and if these three players don’t want to change their jersey out for another, they really need to prove that it’s in the GM’s best interest to keep them. Only time will tell if these players will get a second chance to show their worth.